The Mayer Law Blog

Discharge Review Board Changes Since COVID

Posted March 15th, 2023 in General

(Note: This article is current as of March 15, 2023. However, board processes may change in the future.)

The various service discharge review boards have changed since 2020. Before COVID, veterans had to plan to travel to the Washington, DC area for personal appearance hearings. Some exceptions were made for video teleconferences, but the rule of thumb was to plan for travel in order to fight for your discharge upgrade.

Of course, COVID changed all of this. In the early stages of the pandemic, boards postponed almost all hearings. However, once it became clear that the pandemic was not going to disappear quickly, they searched for a solution. That came in the form of telephonic and video teleconference (VTC) hearings.

Now that the worst of COVID is over, the discharge review boards analyzed the effectiveness of the process and determined that they were comfortable continuing with telephonic/VTC hearings. So, for the foreseeable future, they are here to stay.

Pros and Cons

In some ways, remote hearings are good:

  • No travel expenses. (This includes not having to pay your attorney to attend the board, which means fewer legal fees.)
  • No worries about getting to the right location and signing-in on time.
  • No more navigating through the confusing DC metroplex.
  • No more waiting in a waiting room to begin. You get to wait in the comfort of your own home/office.

In some ways, remote hearings are not so good:

  • Talking to a board in-person and face-to-face is always more powerful and persuasive. You lose that benefit with telephonic/VTC hearings.
  • Glitches. Glitches. Glitches. Nothing is worse than realizing that you glitched-out and the board did not hear anything you said for the last 5 minutes. Over the telephone, you can have interference, static, hangups, and a variety of other glitches. VTCs are even worse. Think of the times you’ve seen someone’s screen freeze, and it usually is at a moment where your face looks the most unnatural and distorted. That’s embarrassing in a casual conversation. It is horrifying during a hearing.
  • It is hard to see how the members of the board are reacting to your case. In-person, you see these reactions and can adjust your case accordingly. You don’t see these cues telephonically or via VTC.

So, what can you do?

Good and bad, the reality is what it is. As with any hearing, preparation is key.

If you are on VTC, position your camera so you are visible in a professional way. Board members do not want to look up your nose for an hour. Think of how a professional headshot would look. Your face must be clear and centered, and your upper chest and shoulders should be visible. Test your setup using FaceTime, Skype, or other VTC program and obtain feedback from someone else. Wear professional clothing. This includes pants. You never know when you might have to stand during the proceedings — like being sworn in.

For VTC and telephonic, your audio should be clear and free of distractions. Test this. Don’t sit in a room where the echo is overwhelming. This will annoy and distract board members. Crying babies and barking dogs are understandable, but they become torture to board members after a minute or two. Plan accordingly and coordinate for someone to take care of these things. Carpeted rooms have less echo than hard-floored rooms. If you are telephonic, consider using your car. Modern automobiles are, generally, wonderful sound chambers. Most importantly, test your setup and have someone else give you feedback.

How you speak is also important. Speak slowly and clearly. The board wants to understand what you are saying. Help them to do this. Practice your presentation.


Your personal appearance is your last best chance to upgrade a military discharge. Don’t mess it up by mishandling the telephonic/VTC hearing.

Comments are closed.